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Shorter Eric Cantor: “The Rights of White Men to Sexually Assault Women of Color Shall Not Be Abridged!”

[ 189 ] December 7, 2012 |

Leave it to a congressman from the ex-Confederacy, where the white rape of black women has a long and sordid history, to hold up the Violence Against Women Act in order to protect white men from prosecution by tribal courts if they rape a Native American woman.

Yes that’s right. Eric Cantor is the holding up VAWA for that reason. Republicans have been fighting it tooth and nail because the new act would expand protections to immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans. They are caving on the first two. But about Native Americans, Cantor refuses to budge. Here’s the low-down.

Leahy explained the provision, probably the least understood of the three additions in the Senate bill: It gives tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands. Currently, federal and state law enforcement have jurisdiction over domestic violence on tribal lands, but in many cases, they are hours away and lack the resources to respond to those cases. Tribal courts, meanwhile, are on site and familiar with tribal laws, but lack the jurisdiction to address domestic violence on tribal lands when it is carried out by a non-Native American individual.

That means non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on tribal lands are essentially “immune from the law, and they know it,” Leahy said.

The standoff over including VAWA protections for Native American women comes at a time of appallingly high levels of violence on tribal lands. One in three Native American women have been raped or experienced attempted rape, the New York Times reported in March, and the rate of sexual assault on Native American women is more than twice the national average. President Barack Obama has called violence on tribal lands “an affront to our shared humanity.”

Of the Native American women who are raped, 86 percent of them are raped by non-Native men, according to an Amnesty International report. That statistic is precisely what the Senate’s tribal provision targets.

For all intents and purposes, Eric Cantor is coming out as the defender of (mostly) whites raping non-white women. I’d say this is especially reprehensible. But it’s Cantor so it’s par for the course.

Again, the coming Republican coalition is just around the corner……

Let It Go

[ 141 ] December 7, 2012 |

The Obama Administration needs to let Colorado and Washington have their legal marijuana. Just let it go. The Obama Administration has pretty much let the DEA do what it wants around marijuana, largely I think because Obama just doesn’t care and doesn’t want to waste a single minute thinking about this issue. I understand that. But busting legal marijuana is not that dissimilar from the Defense of Marriage Act, at least in terms of the federal government trying to get in the way of historical processes as the social libertarianism of people under the age of 40 comes of age. Even on the level of morality, it’s hard to argue that putting people in prison for small-scale drug offenses is less immoral than denying marriage equality.

Obama just needs to walk away. Treat it like gay marriage and let the states decide what they want. At the very least, it’s an interesting experiment. If it is a disaster, the states can get rid of it. But the same people who support gay marriage support marijuana legalization. The reconstituted McGovern coalition that has pushed Obama to victory wants this. He could crack down now and it probably won’t cause a huge political backlash, even among his supporters. But like DOMA, 15 years down the road, it’s going to make Obama look pretty stupid as legalization becomes an overwhelming movement.

Western Lynchings

[ 97 ] December 6, 2012 |

This is a fascinating piece on Ken Gonzales-Day, the artist and author who explores the history of lynching in the American West. We usually think of lynching as something that had to black people in the South. But it was far more pervasive, especially in the American West, where non-whites of all varieties were lynched throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gonzales-Day has an exhibit of images where he has digitally erased the hanging bodies from old lynching photos, forcing our gaze to the people proudly posing next to their victims.

There’s also this:

As if to underscore this idea, Mr. Gonzales-Day has also produced a self-guided walking tour of lynching sites in downtown Los Angeles that allows participants “to revisit places and events made infamous” in the context of their present-day lives. The tour is an extension of the artist’s own six-year pilgrimage to nearly every county in California, culminating in another series, “Searching for California’s Hang Trees,” that features large-scale color photographs and billboards of lynching sites, particularly the trees that possibly served as hanging posts.

A self-guided walking tour of lynching sites? Wow. That actually sounds amazing and important. Forcing us to recognize the dark histories on the landscapes we take for granted has tremendous value in making us confront our national racist past and how whites benefit from that historical racism and white privilege today.

In Case Your Day Has Gone Too Well

[ 26 ] December 6, 2012 |

Thought it was worth darkening your day by pointing you to this handy online calendar of mine disasters in American history. See how many miners were killed on the birthdays of you and your loved ones!

This Day in Labor History: December 6, 1865

[ 33 ] December 6, 2012 |

On December 6, 1865, the legislature of Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ending slavery. Arguably, the single most important event in the history of American labor, the official end to slavery closed a chapter in the nation’s race-based labor system, a system that still remains in important forms to the present.

I hardly need to go into great detail on the history of slavery and I’d rather leave the details of specific events to individual posts in this series (see here, here, and here for other slavery posts). But let us the review the general outlines of what slavery meant–the right of the employer to do whatever they want with labor. Kill it. Rape it. Impregnate it and own the offspring. Beat it. Gamble it away. Dehumanize it. Whatever. It’s all open game when labor becomes property. When the employer can base this slavery on difference and then naturalize that through racism, even better because it creates solidarity between those who don’t share that difference, regardless of whether they have personal investments in human capital. As I’ve said in the past about the southern argument that lots of Civil War soldiers didn’t own slaves–just because they didn’t own slaves doesn’t mean they didn’t want to own slaves.

We are in a moment when the connection between Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment are strong in the public mind because of the Spielberg film, which I have yet to see. There’s no question that Lincoln played a key role in it passing Congress, something he was only able to do of course because the majority of the opposition had seceded from the nation and were no longer part of Congress. But slaves effectively ended the institution themselves during the war. African-Americans, north and south, free and slave, knew what the war meant from the moment it started. Slaves poured out of Maryland into newly emancipated Washington, D.C., knowing that a Union victory would mean the effective end of the institution. They fled to Union lines at every opportunity, well before Lincoln would allow the military to free them. They volunteered for the Union Army by the tens of thousands, facing the institutionalized racism of that institution in order to do whatever they could to free their families and comrades in the South, whether by holding a gun or digging a latrine. Of course none of this was possible without the U.S. government declaring slavery no longer the black labor policy of the nation. Credit for the end of slavery goes to many people, including many long forgotten African-Americans who may have nothing but walked away at the first opportunity.

African-Americans leaving the plantations

The 13th Amendment was generated out of Congressional Republicans and abolitionists who saw changing the Constitution as a better way of ending slavery through the United States, as presently constituted, than Abraham Lincoln’s preferred method of trying to convince the border states to do so voluntarily. Lincoln’s methods had proven ineffective as the border states flat refused, even Delaware which barely even had any slaves by 1864. Abolitionists began a petition drive for a constitutional amendment in 1863. In February 1864, two black men delivered a petition on the Senate floor to Charles Sumner with over 100,000 signatures; by mid-1864, over 400,000 Americans had signed a petition.

Despite urging from Congress, Lincoln refused to make any recommendation for an constitutional amendment in his 1864 State of the Union Address. Congress took it up anyway. The 13th Amendment’s language was written by Lyman Trumbull in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Somewhat amusingly, Sumner wanted to base the language around the French Declaration of the Rights of Man but that was seen as too Frenchy and was rejected. The amendment was presented to Congress on February 10, 1864. At first it seemed that it might get Democratic support but the upcoming 1864 elections got in the way and Democratic support disappeared in the face of the party’s white supremacist platform for George McClellan over Lincoln. The amendment passed the Senate on April 8, but fell 13 votes short in the House.

McClellan campaign poster, 1864

After Lincoln’s reelection (something in serious doubt until just before the election), the first order of business for Congress was to take up the 13th Amendment. Republicans undertook a full-fledged effort to get the votes with William Seward promising rich patronage to Democrats for voted for it. Only 2 Democrats who were going to serve in the next Congress had the courage to vote yes, but 14 others, who had either lost or chosen not to run for reelection, also voted yes and the 13th Amendment squeaked through Congress in January 1865.

At this point, the amendment went to the states for ratification. It quickly moved through the North, only failing in the 3 states that voted for McClellan–Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey. The three Reconstruction governments established under Lincoln–Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana, passed it as well. A rump legislature in Virginia joined them. The process then slowed, but under tremendous pressure, enough ex-Confederate states passed it that on December 6, Georgia became the tipping point state and the 13th Amendment was ratified.

It is somewhat ironic of course that a slave state like Georgia would be the final vote to encode the end of slavery in the Constitution. But by late 1865, the institution was dead anyway. Andrew Johnson was seeking to speed the process of Reconstruction up in order to ensure that white supremacy ruled the nation. The easiest way to do that was to get the ex-Confederates to pass the 13th Amendment and renounce secession. That plus nothing was enough for Johnson, although of course it would not be enough for the Republicans. And as the battles over Reconstruction would demonstrate, the battle over control of black labor was far from over as states like Georgia were implementing the Black Codes at the same time they ratified the fait accompli of slavery’s ending. That southern whites would by and large win this battle over massive black resistance in the late nineteenth century demonstrates the tenuousness of the nation’s commitment to free labor for people of color, even in the face of fighting a civil war over the issue.


Finally, it’s important to see the 13th Amendment not as an end, but as part of the larger national debate of what to do with 4 million freed black laborers. Was simply ending slavery enough? Did they need to be part of the larger political body? Most politicians in the North agreed that their proper place was laboring on plantations under white supervision. This assumption would guide much of the coming Reconstruction policy, something I will explore in further detail in the future.

Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment in 1995.

This is the 46th post in this series. The other posts are archived here.

Smoke Up and Be Somebody

[ 19 ] December 5, 2012 |

If cigarettes are good for birds, it must make sense that they are good for humans too, right?

I wonder if there’s a way we can impart this knowledge to children? This might work:

Sexism and the Marriage Proposal

[ 255 ] December 5, 2012 |

Amanda Marcotte has some interesting commentary on the inherent sexism of the marriage proposal. Having been down this road a couple of times now, the entire marriage structure is sexist. I proposed both times and even the possibility of me not being the one who proposed was strictly impossible despite the fact that I wouldn’t be with anyone who didn’t self-identify as a feminist. I don’t know a single couple where the woman asked the man. Some parts of the institution have becomes less offensive in the last few decades. The “obey” term in the wedding ceremony has faded. It’s not so frequent where the man “asks” the father for his daughter, though I have friends who have done that.

A lot of structural sexism remains in the marriage ceremony. From the father giving the bride away (property!) to the woman taking the husband’s name (property!) the whole ceremony stinks of sexism and I hate it and even participating in it there wasn’t much I could do about it given the pervasiveness of gendered expectations. Although on a personal level, taking my name, well no I could not deal with that. Why shouldn’t men take their wife’s names? If I have kids, why shouldn’t they take my wife’s name? They will identify with her Irish ethnicity since I couldn’t care less about these questions. Might as well take her name too.

Much of this might seem harmless. I am already imagining the comments that Amanda and I are making mountains out of molehills, not to take this so seriously, tradition, biology, etc. But the fact remains that as a society, we have done a better job dealing with structural racism and arguably even structural homophobia (at least within our hearts and willingness to have serious discussions about it, although not for the bisexual and transgender communities) than structural sexism.

I’d also be curious for research to see how marriage proposals play out with same-sex couples.

21st Amendment

[ 79 ] December 5, 2012 |

On this date in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing Prohibition, otherwise known as the stupidest law in American history.

The state that put the 21st Amendment over the top? Utah, of course.

Today in the Coming Republican Coalition

[ 43 ] December 5, 2012 |

On all fronts, the Republicans are making remarkable progress in building a coalition that will appeal to people who aren’t old and white.

1. John Sununu dismissing Obama’s victory as a group of people dependent on the government.

2. A Subway owned by Republican Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana refused to serve a Muslim couple and told them that was the reason.

3. The rejection of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Disabled treaty.

If there’s three things that appeal to young voters, it’s denigrating why they voted for Obama, Jim Crow-style treatment of brown people, and hating on the disabled because of anti-world government nonsense.

I can’t wait for the coming immigration debate.

Ending the Debt Ceiling Absurdity

[ 17 ] December 5, 2012 |

Let’s hope Obama sticks to his guns on being done with playing debt ceiling games with the Republicans.

The Republican Congress overplayed its hand. It’s time for Democrats to call them on it. The new Congress looks promising on these measures and it’s amusing to see the Republicans scrambling for the first time in forever. Time to slam some filibuster reform through, force Republicans to the wall on raising taxes on the rich, and taking power away from Congress on the debt ceiling if it won’t take reasonable stances.

Dave Brubeck, RIP

[ 146 ] December 5, 2012 |

Another great one is gone.

The Dark UN Conspiracy Takes Another Hero

[ 98 ] December 4, 2012 |

Thank God (thank HIM!!!!!!!) for Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is willing to stand up against Satan’s grand strategy to use his minions (the United Nations) to destroy this great nation through such horrors as urban planning. In October, Rogers led his peers to hear a speaker at the state capitol building railing against the dark conspiracy known as Agenda 21, a nonbinding, voluntary UN action plan in favor of sustainable development. I’ve never heard of such a threat to the United States and God’s plan for us to develop the nation’s resources to generate profits for wealthy white people who can then store their riches offshore in the Cayman Islands.

Satan takes his pound of flesh though (though given Satan’s nefarious agenda, he probably prefers organic, locally-produced flesh. Not to mention a kilogram of flesh instead of a pound) and Rogers is now “resigning” from the Georgia Senate to “spend more time with his family.” Can we Christians take a few minutes away from building more suburban developments in wetlands to rescue our hero? Don’t you know that “spending more time with his family” is a euphemism for “sustainable, walking cities?” My god, there might be black people in those places! And not every store would have a parking lot the size of Rhode Island! Can you imagine the horror? If we don’t save him now, will Satan take him to the never before known 20th Circle of Hell–making him an employee of an NGO working with indigenous people to save their lands from oil development?

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